Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:54): Last Sunday I joined my fellow Labor representatives Tanya Plibersek, Jo Haylen, Penny Sharpe and Linda Scott at Fair Day in Victoria Park. Like many years before, we took the opportunity to plant our messages of support for marriage equality in the Sea of Hearts, organised by the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. I also look forward to marching alongside many tens of thousands who will participate at the Mardi Gras parade, as I have done nearly every year since 1983. Fair Day and Mardi Gras are important celebrations for the gay and lesbian community in Sydney. It is a celebration of the diversity which makes Sydney a great global city. But it is also a time to recognise the ongoing discrimination that continues to occur against the gay and lesbian community in a range of areas, including the recognition of their relationships.
I have always believed that equal rights for all people, regardless of sexuality, race or gender, are fundamental rights. Through Labor governments we have seen significant advancement in this area. In every election since 1996 Labor has committed to removing important areas of legal discrimination against same-sex couples. This has included taxation, superannuation, social security, health, aged care, veterans entitlements, workers compensation and employment entitlements. Most recently we have successfully extended Labor’s Paid Parental Leave scheme to include same-sex couples.
These are important steps forward, but we must recognise that there is still some way to go. That is why it is important that in schools we promote tolerance and support for diversity, and why the position of Simon Birmingham, the education minister, is correct in supporting that process, which is now under review because of the views of a very small minority within the coalition. I am proud to be part of the ALP, whose support through our platform for marriage equality is now entrenched. I believe that Australia will join the nations that have recognised that people should be allowed to marry the person that they love. That is because institutions, just like society’s values, evolve over time.
It is significant that today the New South Wales Parliament will apologise to the 78ers for the discrimination and suffering they endured at the first Mardi Gras march. The reaction of media outlets, many political leaders and the police to the first Mardi Gras was a disgraceful show of discrimination and an abuse of power. I wish to acknowledge the contribution of the 78ers to the ongoing fight for equality in Australia, as they played an important role in forging the path for law reform.